Over the Winter Meetings, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ new General Manager Ben Cherington didn’t shy away from any questions and made a lot of statements about the direction the team could be moving, the major needs within the organization, and how he was getting a bunch of interest in many of the Pirates current players. I listened to everything that Cherington said very intently; trying to figure out what he was trying to say or if he was dropping any hints as to the future of the Pirates and/or any particular players. One statement that he made stuck in my head and led me to doing a little research (because that’s what I do) to see if what he was alluding to was a good option for the team, if it was a mistake to even consider it, or if it fell somewhere in between. The statement he made was about if he would be comfortable playing Reynolds in center field on an everyday basis if the situation called for it.
Now I know a lot of you have already planted your flag in on a particular side of this discussion for a variety of reasons; whether it be because you are of the mindset that Marte is an elite outfielder and no one on the team can man center the way he does, or that Marte’s not that good anymore. You may say that Reynolyds is a consummate professional and will just do his job well at any position, or that he doesn’t have the range to patrol center field. To me it comes down to the numbers, and by numbers I mean fielding metrics, to determine if he can or he can’t take over for Marte in center. My opinion is based on nothing more than that because numbers don’t have an opinion and they don’t lie. So let’s get started, shall we?
The metrics that I will be using to judge both Starling Marte and Bryan Reynolds’ abilities to play center field for the Pittsburgh Pirates will be: 1) rARM (Outfield Arms Runs Saved). This statistic evaluates an outfielder’s throwing arm based on how often runners advance on base hits and are thrown out trying to take extra bases. 2) rPM (Plus Minus Runs Saved), which evaluates the fielder’s range and ability to convert a batted ball into an out. 3) UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating). This stat encapsulates the number of runs above or below average a fielder accounts for: range runs, outfield arm runs, and error runs combined. 4) DRS (Defensive Runs Saved). This simply indicates how man runs a player saved or hurt his team in the field compared to the average player at his position. It is seen as the stat that captures a players total defensive value. 5) JUMP. This is a newer Statcast metric which shows what players have the fastest reactions and most direct routes in the outfield and is defined as, “How many feet did he cover in the right direction in the first three seconds after pitch release?” Let’s take a look at how these two players stack up against one another.
- rARM: Marte 2, Reynolds 0
- rPM: Marte -11, Reynolds 0
- URZ: Marte -7.5, Reynolds -3.5
- DRS: Marte -9, Reynolds 3
- JUMP: Marte 1.3 or 35.1 total feet, Reynolds -.3 or 33.4 total feet
Now to finish of the process, we have to look into what exactly the stats tell us. Well, Marte has a better arm, quicker reaction time and can cover more ground than Reynolds. On the other hand Reynolds has a greater ability as it pertains to converting batted balls into outs, is less likely to cost his team runs due to errors or misplaying the ball and is the overall better defender as evidenced by his 3 DRS to Marte’s -9. The only possible way that Marte could make up this large of a gap in DRS would be to totally and utterly outperform Reynolds at the plate, which all Pirates fans should know was not the case last year.
Reynold’s had a higher average (.314 to .295), a higher OPS (.880 to .845) and a higher wRC+ (131 to 119) than Marte. The only major category that Marte led Reynolds in was home runs (23 to 18). All of these stats actually swing the pendulum further in favor of Reynolds.
So after all the numbers have been crunched it appears that Ben Cherington is justified in his comfort level as he envisions the possibility of Reynolds as the primary centerfielder for the Pirates this upcoming season. This is not saying that he is going to be forced to make this decision, just that it can’t be ruled out because of a lack of faith in Bryan Reynolds' abilities.
Follow Craig on Twitter: @BucsBasement